21st Century Lesson Plan – Digital Comic Strip Stories

I teach 4th and 5th grade English Language Arts (ELA) and Social Studies. Throughout my years of creating lesson plans and projects for my students, I have been successful at incorporating technology into my Social Studies curriculum. However, I always find it much more difficult to incorporate technology into my ELA curriculum (other than using Google Docs for publishing stories). So, I knew right away that I wanted to make this 21st Century Lesson Plan related to my reading, writing or vocabulary curriculum.

Throughout my self-created vocabulary curriculum students learn specific vocabulary words that I have deemed essential to their learning. I choose these words by doing extensive research and by using words connected to all of my read aloud books. I have created mini lessons to teach each word including an interactive read aloud, direct instruction and classroom activities. Nevertheless, I’m always missing one essential part: student creation. According to Thomas and John Seely Brown in A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change (2011), “students must learn to generate content that represents their learning” and “learn that play is how people generate understanding” (pg. 91-99). They continue on to say that students must know “how to play” and that “all systems of play are, at base, learning systems” (pg. 97).

This got me thinking, how can I develop a lesson plan related to vocabulary learning that incorporates both play and student creation? After visiting the site Cool Tools for Schools and playing/creating myself, I landed on the site Make Beliefs Comix. This is an easy to use site that allows students to create their own comic strip story – no account or money required! There are templates, characters, backgrounds, and tutorials all included in one place. Incorporating play into my lesson plan would be easy with such a user friendly site. Next, I had to decide what I wanted them to create.

So, I turned to Renee Hobbs’ work, taking advice from her book, Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom (2011). Hobbs states that one of the core literacy practices that should be part of students learning in every classroom is creation. She explains this as students using “interactivity to get their message across” including the chance to share content that will “reach real audiences” (pg. 16). With this core practice in mind, I developed a lesson plan that will allow students to create a comic strip story related to growth mindset vocabulary words we have learned and studied this year. Not only will students use prior knowledge of certain vocabulary words, but they will build these comics strips to share with their classmates (a real audience!). Students will have a chance to learn the basics of Make Beliefs Comix by first getting 30 minutes to play and explore before being asked to complete the assignment. This lesson plan will take three, 45 minute blocks.

I will model my expectations of this assignment by showing students my complete Growth Mindset Vocabulary Comic Strip Story:

Screenshot 2017-10-09 at 8.11.47 PM

Screenshot 2017-10-09 at 8.18.10 PM.png

This lesson plan will take three class periods. I intend for students to come away:

  • Better understanding of the growth mindset vocabulary words.
  • Basic knowledge of how to build a digital comic strip on Make Beliefs Comix.
  • The ability to learn a new skill from YouTube (Make Beliefs Comix Tutorial included in lesson plan).



Curriculum Corner (2014). Comic strip planning sheets. Retreived from http://www.thecurriculumcorner.com/thecurriculumcorner456/comic-strip-writing-templates/.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Make Beliefs Comix (2006-2017). Create your own comic strip. Retrieved from http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/.

Make Beliefs Comix (2006-2017). Demo on how to use make beliefs comix. Retrieved from http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/Diagram/.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?.

Screenshot and Header Image Attributes:

These images are a screenshots of the authors work (Elizabeth Siracusa), retrieved from makebeliefscomix.com.



Published by Liz Siracusa (Vocabulicious)

* Elementary Educator * Instructional Literacy Coach * Vocabulary Lover * The history behind Vocabulicious is simple - I love to help students growth their vocabulary, and I want to help YOU make your classroom a word conscious environment. I’m excited to share all of the vocabulary activities I have had success with throughout the years, plus great mentor texts to use for interactive read alouds. I live in Burlington, Vermont and enjoy hiking, biking and running!

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